Sainsbury’s Get Involved in this Mince Pie War to End all Mince Pie Wars (It’ll be over by Christmas)

I hereby present Sainsbury’s with the award for best looking pie. Very dainty details. Good job everyone involved.

As for the taste? Not that memorable. But not as bad as Marks and Sparks. Obviously.

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How do M&S fare in the battle of mince pies?

These Marks and Sparks mince pies are a bit of a let down to be honest. They say all-butter on them, but that isn’t very evident from the taste. The recommended time they have to put them in the oven is too long, so the mincemeat was too hot. They look alright, with a simple incision in the top to give that old-school look, but I think that’s what leads them to let all the heat in an burn my tongue. Sibyl said too much mincemeat too. Oh dear Marks and Sparks.

What are the latest developments on my mince pie tasting endeavours?

Good news first. I’ve found my favourite so far. Waitrose strikes back. These little all butter ones. Pack of twelve. Amazing pastry. My Mama-in-law bought me those.

Before those I was bought other really posh fully organic ones! They were great for a home-made taste.

Then there was the other end of the spectrum, the most commercially lucrative cake company out there… Mr. Kipling of course. Why he stopped writing the Jungle Books I don’t know, those ones aren’t really recommended, bog-standard, tasty, nice pictures on it them too, of two turtle doves too.

What is ‘artisan food’ anyway?

It’s surprising that despite living in a small town, there are still places I haven’t been. One such place we finally paid a visit to last night. Dylan alerted me to the absurdity of one of its supposed aims, to provide ‘artisan bread’. That’s definitely a food name for Generation Y, bread that is not just bread, it’s artisan bread. Of course this is marketing speak for ‘it’s a bit posh’ and ‘hands were used a little bit whilst making it’.

Anyway, this place is a cross between Leon and Pizza Express, but it isn’t a franchise or a chain, which makes it more appealing. (P.S. I think it’s not a chain but it might be).

Aesthetically I approved, apart from an obvious need for a bit of concrete flooring where there was wood panelling instead.

I also have a pet hate of Welsh establishments’ need to put up paintings of Welsh celebrities in wacky colours; and Welsh verse painted in unusual typography. Just because you’re a Welsh place and want to make it clear that you are proud of that, it doesn’t mean that you have to make all your artwork didactic. There are — there really are — thousands of Welsh artists gagging for commissions who would produce some genuinely Welsh, but less preachy, less corny, less tacky work.

One more thing on the interior design… They had white ceramic metro tiles on their walls, they still look good at the moment — I fear it won’t be long before they don’t — but right now, I like ’em too.

Anyway, the food was nice. I had skate and Sibyl had a pizza with an egg on it. My fish didn’t blow my mind, but it was meant to be served with butter which I refused because I was feeling healthy so I’ve only myself to blame. Nice though. Sibyl adored her eggy thing.

They also had a good selection of artisan drinks. Sibyl had a virgin mojito and I had one of their cwrw anarferol, it was from Scotland — I didn’t know that when I ordered it, I thought it was Welsh — but it was nice, oak aged or sumink. And they served it with an ice chilled glass, nice touch.

Word on the location… Really good. Right on the seafront, so with a window seat at the right time you can watch the sunset over the sea. Issue was that only one of us was near enough the window to see the sunset so we had to keep swapping seats. Should’ve booked ahead.

Very blessed to be able to have such an evening. We’re currently thinking of things we won’t be able to do when we have our kid. This is one of them. Privilege to enjoy God’s gifts.

18 things I do not regret my parents doing with me

Inspired by when Anti Catrin showed us that Challies article when he wrote the 18 things he doesn’t regret doing with his kids.

1. Praying with us before bed.
That was part of the everyday routine for us, and that’s remained into my adult life. Praying with Sibyl before sleeping goes along with brushing my teeth and putting on my PJs.

2. Giving us pocket money.
Dad borrowed a method from the de Jongs in our church; we would receive our age squared (in pennies), every Saturday. Enough to buy sweeties (or da da as we’d call them in Welsh), but we had to save some for collection in church the next day.

3. Talking with us about theology as we walked
On the way to the sweet shop every Saturday, Dad would ‘teach us diligently when we walked by the way’. I remember the freedom to talk about any theological concept, ask any question. “How do we know if God even exists?” “Who is the Holy Spirit?” “Can God sin?”

4. Playing us Christian songs.
I still remember every single Steve Green Hide ’em in Your Heart song, along with great family hymns like Holy, Holy, Holy. I was even helped when Dad tried to get us all to sing Keep on the Sunnyside from the Oh Brother Where Art Thou OST.

5. Leading us in family devotions
Not a day went by without us having a mealtime (sometimes breakfast, sometimes dinner) when the Bible was read to us. I’m indebted to those times for a huge chunk of my Biblical knowledge now.

6. Prioritising a family meal everyday
Leading on from that, we always ate together. I remember a school-friend moaning that his Mum forced them to have a meal together once a week. I remember thinking “Once!? Who else would you have a meal with the rest of the time?”

7. Feeding us amazingly tasty food
Yes, I’m dwelling on these mealtimes, but that’s because they were so good! Roast potatoes, homemade chips, roast chicken, sausages, turkey bake, quiche, tuna pie. And then there’s the puddings… chocolate brownies, chocolate pudding, chocolate bread and butter pudding, millionaire shortbread (with chocolate), little pastry pie things with brown sugary raisin stuff in them, fridge cake, flapjacks, cookies, and shop-bought battenberg was always a hit too.

8. Disciplining us
We knew when we’d been naughty and often had to learn the hard way. But those smacks could well have saved my life, they helped me honour my parents, and I know that that means I can now enjoy long life on the earth. However the downside is I do have a phobia of all wooden spoons…

9. Taking photos and videos of us
There’s a great VHS of me when I was a baby which is amazing to watch, and there’s lots of photos which I love looking at, people who’ve died that I now have images of to look at, memories of birthdays and Christmases, great stuff.

10. Taking us to church
That was just normality on Sundays. Morning and Evening. What’s come home to me recently is that I heard the gospel so many times before I listened to it, God gave me (literally) thousands of chances, and so much time, this helps me to have patience with others who have not grown up with that privilege, and who are not converted as soon as I tell them the gospel.

11. Sending us to schools
Firstly, the Welsh primary school solidified my contact with Cymraeg and Cymru, a language and place where much of my heart is with, so I’m thankful for that. As for the secondary school, I’m grateful for the socialisation and contact with the secular world that that gave me practice in.

12.Teaching us how to decipher what they were teaching us in school and the Bible
Dad would often ask us after school, “Did they mention God even once today?” The answer was usually no. I went to one of the most humanist schools around, but I’m glad I went home and was given the tools to engage with all of that.

13. Telling us to watch things critically
Along the same lines, these were the tools that we were to use when watching TV and films. Dad’s catchphrase was indeed “are you watching this critically?” And from speaking to my fifteen-year-old brother this week, he still says that.

14. Giving us time to play outside in our garden
Hours and hours and hours spent in our garden, mostly playing football, but also making a treehouse with our friends the Barnses, and also digging holes, even making fires sometimes! And the tree-swing was amazing too. And the climbing frame. And the paddling pool in the summer.

15. Encouraging us to do household chores
Lay the table, clear the table, empty the dishwasher, tidy your room… all things we were encouraged to do, but I must confess were very poor at even those few tasks. Poor Mam. I’m still working on that one. But I’m glad I was shown the importance of them.

16. Telling us how important books are
I was a terrible reader as a child, Dad at one point even offered to give me £2 for every book I could finish, it still didn’t work. He is a voracious reader, and that example has served me well as I’m slowly growing in my love for books. So even for the times I was forced to read boring Enid Blyton books about inane supernatural teddy bears, thank you.

17. Encouraging a love of music in us
There was more often than not music playing in our house. From Mam it would be The Carpenters and Lionel Ritchie, from Dad it would be Focus and The Beatles, and on Sunday we’d have Classical music. Did you know, I still love music?

18. Deciding to have loads of kids
I love having four brothers. It’s so fun. It’s also mad. But I can’t think of a better community to grow up in, one in which you are in a house with four other kids who all share the same parents and space as you, and are all so different from you, but also share so much in common with you too. That’s been great.

Early Days with Spaghetti Bolognese

I always ate spaghetti bolognese really quickly as a child. I remember it was always a source of pride for me that I finished my spaghetti bolognese before everyone else finished their spaghetti bolognese. 

It was always a dish of choice at Golders Hill Park café, perhaps a continuation of the Italian theme that was fostered in their over-priced ice cream corner. 

There was an unfortunate story passed on to me from Wibsy which involved the involuntary regurgitation of said dish, and the distinctive element to the tale was in the resemblance of the spew to the meal that had been digested just a few hours previous to this ghastly event.

Finally, a reminiscence of Uncle G cooking spaghetti bolognese in our house (he didn’t live there). I remember being struck at the simplicity and effectiveness displayed in the production of the nosh. We went to the shop and bought a tin of chopped tomatoes, and before I knew it the meal was made. What a hero.

Counterculture blogpost concerning trends in English language judgementalism

I made a pasta sauce for lunch, I put in courgette. I never forgo an opportunity to repeatedly say courgette in a French accent. Furthermore, I enjoy pouring sizeable buckets of scorn on anyone who might call it a zucchini, that’s a lie I’ve never judged anyone for calling them zukinis, it’s called cultural linguistic variation, get over it.

I think it’s David Mitchell (off of Mitchell & Webb not off of Cloud Atlas)’s fault that we’re all so openly judgemental about grammar and spelling and all that, since he started getting really vocal about it – fair enuff – for the purposes of comedy, but let’s leave it there, on the stage/screen/podcast where it belongs. I don’t think that serious linguistic correction gets us far at all, apart from sometimes being funny to watch when they get worked up about it. I even remember joining a facebook group all about judging punctuation. Well I’ve changed my mind, yes it gets on my nerves, and yes it might be better if you learned the rules, but if language is about communication and you can tell what that person is trying to say, then, well, fine, leave it out, stop it! All those things that men shout at noisy children in cinemas – watch it, oi, shut yer little gob – all that, that’s what I’m saying to these self appointed grammar Nazis. Pack it in!